googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Atheist Questions William Lane Craig About God's Morality

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Atheist Questions William Lane Craig About God's Morality

William Lane Craig is a top notch debater. I've enjoyed many chuckles while watching him destroy (figuratively) atheists on YouTube. The big disagreement I normally have with Craig is his compromise on creation but that is the subject of another post. What impresses me most about him is his command of logical arguments. Usually Craig's arguments are so unassailable that even the renown Richard Dawkins has refused to debate him again. Anyone who has followed my blog for a while has probably seen a little of Craig's influence in my posts because I've learned a lot from listening to him. You can imagine my disappointment, then, when he seemed to stumble over a rather ordinary question from an atheist (at least I assume he's an atheist from the headline because he doesn't identify himself as such in the video). As usual, I've included the video here for your review. It's only 2:57 long so you will probably want to take a moment to review before we continue. Go ahead. I'll wait...

If you've never watched Dr. Craig before, one argument he frequently uses for the existence of God is the existence of absolute morality. If there is no God, then there is no objective morality. Things like right and wrong would be subjective and relative to what is expedient. A cat, for example, might kill a mouse for sport. If nature is all there is, then a human killing another human would be no more wrong than any animal killing another. One can call an atrocity like the Holocaust objectively evil only by assuming there is an ultimate standard of good and evil. In a universe without God, such a standard does not exist. If someone believes there is a such thing as absolute right and wrong, he must admit there is an ultimate Law-Giver whose judgment supersedes every other person's opinion.  That's Craig's point and I believe it's a compelling argument.

The argument for the existence of objective morality must have been one of the topics Craig had discussed the night of this video. The atheist in this video challenges Craig on the “morality of God” by citing several verses where, he believes, the Bible endorses immoral practices. He starts with a reference to Exodus 21:20-21 but then rattles off a long lists of “questionable” verses. As I've said, this is a fairly common criticism raised of Christianity – one I'm sure Craig must have heard before so I would think he'd be practiced in answering it. In this video, he acted like he was winging it.

First, I'm not sure why Craig asked why the questioner seemed so angry. This smacks of the logical fallacy of “appeal to motive”; that is, he seems to say “you are only asking this question because you are angry with God.” He even suggests that the questioner was too wound up emotionally to understand his argument. Maybe Craig was genuinely curious about the questioner and wasn't trying to accomplish anything by raising this point. It just struck me as odd he would even go there.

However, what disappointed me most about Craig's response was how he immediately abandoned the God of Christianity and the Bible. He said that his point was only a generic argument for theism and the existence of a personal supreme being thus his argument is consistent with Christianity, Judaism, Islam, some Hindu beliefs, and deism. Really, Craig? Is that how you want to defend Christianity? You seem to actually retreat from the Bible.

Now, it would be terribly presumptuous of me to tell Dr. Craig, who holds a PhD in Philosophy and is a veteran debater, how he should have answered the question but I'm going to anyway. It would have been a mistake to begin to try to address every verse the critic cited so I can understand why Craig didn't do that. It's seems obvious to me, though, that he should have used the opportunity of the critic's question to double down on his argument. Instead of saying (I'm paraphrasing), “I was only trying to prove theism and not the Bible,” Craig should have said, “If there is no God, then on what grounds do you consider these verses from the Bible to be morally objectionable?” By putting the burden back onto the critic, Craig would have accomplished at least two things: 1) he would have reinforced his argument and put the critic in the position of having to address the real point of Craig's argument instead of raising red herrings and 2) Craig would not have made those “questionable” verses in the Bible seem indefensible.

The verses cited by this critic are certainly worth discussing and I may use them as the subjects of future posts. But, as they say, we must make first things first. If someone believes some passage from the Bible is morally “wrong,” from where does he derive his objective standard of right and wrong? The “Supreme Personal Being” Craig alludes to in his lectures/debates is not some generic god of any religion. He is the only God – the God of the Bible. He is the ultimate Judge of what is right and wrong. There is no objective morality apart from Him and so no one can question His morality (or the morality of the Bible) without first realizing He exists.

1 comment:

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

I accidentally deleted your comment. I'm not sure exactly how I did it but I assure you it wasn't intentional.

If you could reply, I promise to publish it forthrightly.


God bless!!